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Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a classification of educational objectives that are helpful in writing intended student learning outcomes for business programs.

> Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

Bloom’s TaxonomyWhat is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom along with a group of like-minded educators developed a framework for classifying educational goals and objectives into a hierarchical structure representing different forms and levels of learning. This framework was published as Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and consisted of the following three domains:

  • The Cognitive Domain – knowledge-based domain, consisting of six levels, encompassing intellectual or thinking skills
  • The Affective Domain – attitudinal-based domain, consisting of five levels, encompassing attitudes and values
  • The Psychomotor Domain – skills-based domain, consisting of six levels, encompassing physical skills or the performance of actions

Each of these three domains consists of a multi-tiered, hierarchical structure for classifying learning according to increasing levels of complexity. In this hierarchical framework, each level of learning is a prerequisite for the next level, i.e., mastery of a given level of learning requires mastery of the previous levels. Consequently, the taxonomy naturally leads to classifications of lower- and higher-order learning.

In higher education, the cognitive domain has been the principal focus for developing educational goals and objectives while the affective and psychomotor domains have received less attention. Bloom’s taxonomy has stood the test of time, has been used by generations of curriculum planners and college and university professors, and has become the standard for developing frameworks for learning, teaching, and assessment.

Bloom’s Taxonomy
The Original Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain

Bloom’s original 1956 Taxonomy of Educational Objectives identified the following levels of cognitive learning (arranged from lower-order to higher-order levels of learning):

  • Knowledge – The remembering of previously learned material; this involves the recall of a wide range of material, from specific facts to complete theories.
  • Comprehension – The ability to grasp the meaning of previously-learned material; this may be demonstrated by translating material from one form to another, interpreting material (explaining or summarizing), or by predicting consequences or effects.
  • Application – The ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations; this may include the application of rules, methods, concepts, principles, laws, and theories.
  • Analysis – The ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood; this may include the identification of the parts, analysis of the relationships between parts, and recognition of the organizational principles involved.
  • Synthesis – The ability to put parts together to form a new whole; this may involve the production of a unique communication (thesis or speech), a plan of operations (research proposal), or a set of abstract relations (scheme for classifying information).
  • Evaluation – The ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose; The judgments are to be based on definite internal and/or external criteria.

For each level in each domain, Bloom identified a list of suitable verbs for describing that level in written objectives. For each level in the cognitive domain, the following table provides a list of sample verbs to use in writing intended student learning outcomes that are appropriate for that cognitive level of learning. In the table, the learning levels are arranged from lower-order learning to higher-order learning.

Bloom’s Cognitive Domain
Cognitive Level Sample Verbs to Use in Writing Intended Student Learning Outcomes
Knowledge Acquire
Choose
Count
Define
Distinguish
Fill-in
Find
Group
Identify
Indicate
Label
List
Locate
Match
Memorize
Name
Outline
Point
Quote
Recall
Recite
Recognize
Record
Repeat
Reproduce
Select
State
Tabulate
Trace
Underline
Comprehension Associate
Change
Classify
Conclude
Compare
Contrast
Convert
Demonstrate
Describe
Determine
Define
Differentiate
Discuss
Distinguish
Estimate
Expand
Explain
Express
Extend
Extrapolate
Fill in
Find
Generalize
Give examples
Group
Infer
Illustrate
Interpolate
Interpret
Measure
Outline
Paraphrase
Predict
Prepare
Put in order
Rearrange
Recognize
Reorder
Reorganize
Represent
Retell
Reword
Rewrite
Restate
Show
Simplify
Suggest
Summarize
Transform
Translate
Application Apply
Calculate
Choose
Classify
Collect information
Compute
Construct
Convert
Differentiate
Demonstrate
Derive
Determine
Develop
Discover
Discuss
Distinguish
Employ
Estimate
Examine
Expand
Experiment
Express in a discussion
Generalize
Graph
Illustrate
Interpret
Interview
Investigate
Locate
Make
Manipulate
Model
Modify
Operate
Organize
Participate
Perform
Plan
Practice
Predict
Prepare
Present
Produce
Prove
Put into action
Put to use
Put together
Record
Relate
Restructure
Select
Show
Solve
Track
Transfer
Translate
Use
Utilize
Analysis Analyze
Categorize
Classify
Compare
Contrast
Criticize
Debate
Deduce
Detect
Determine
Diagram
Differentiate
Discover
Discriminate
Distinguish
Divide
Draw conclusions
Examine
Formulate
Generalize
Group
Identify (parts)
Illustrate
Infer
Inspect
Order
Outline
Point out
Recognize
Relate
Search
Select
Separate
Simplify
Sort
Subdivide
Take apart
Transform
Uncover
Synthesis Arrange
Blend
Build
Categorize
Combine
Compile
Compose
Constitute
Construct
Create
Deduce
Derive
Design
Devise
Develop
Document
Explain
Form
Formulate
Generalize
Generate
Imagine
Integrate
Invent
Make up
Modify
Originate
Organize
Perform
Plan
Predict
Prepare
Prescribe
Present (an original work)
Produce
Propose
Rearrange
Reconstruct
Relate
Reorganize
Revise
Rewrite
Specify
Suppose
Summarize
Synthesize
Tell
Transmit
Write
Evaluation Appraise
Argue
Assess
Award
Choose
Compare
Conclude
Consider
Contrast
Criticize
Critique
Decide
Defend
Describe
Determine
Discriminate
Distinguish
Evaluate
Grade
Interpret
Judge
Justify
Measure
Rank
Rate
Recommend
Relate
Score
Select
Standardize
Summarize
Support
Test
Validate
Verify

Bloom’s Taxonomy
The Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

In 2001, a former student of Bloom’s, Lorin Anderson, and a group of cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists and instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists published a revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy entitled “A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.” The revision updates the taxonomy for the 21st century, redefines the cognitive domain as the intersection of the “Cognitive Process Dimension” and the “Knowledge Dimension,” and includes significant changes in terminology and structure.

The Cognitive Process Dimension

In the revised framework, ‘action words’ or verbs, instead of nouns, are used to label the six cognitive process or learning levels. In addition, three of the levels are renamed and the top two higher-order cognitive levels are interchanged. The result is a more dynamic model for classifying the intellectual processes used by learners in acquiring and using knowledge.

The revised taxonomy identifies the following new levels of the cognitive process dimension (arranged from lower-order to higher-order levels of learning):

  • Remembering – Retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory (through recognizing and recalling)
  • Understanding – Grasping or constructing meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages; expressing information in a different way and citing examples (through interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining)
  • Applying – Using information or concepts in new ways; carrying out or using a procedure or process; using information or concepts to solve a problem (through executing and implementing)
  • Analyzing – Breaking material or concepts into constituent parts; determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose (through differentiating, organizing, and attributing)
  • Evaluating – Making judgments or assessments based on criteria and standards; defending concepts and ideas (through checking and critiquing)
  • Creating – Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure (through generating, planning, and producing)

The graphic below illustrates the differences between Bloom’s original taxonomy and the 2001 revised taxonomy:

Comparison of Bloom’s Taxonomies

As was the case in the original taxonomy, we can identify a list of suitable verbs for describing the new cognitive levels in written objectives. For each new cognitive level in the revised taxonomy, the following table provides a list of sample verbs to use in writing intended student learning outcomes that are appropriate for that cognitive level of learning. In the table, the learning levels are arranged from lower-order learning to higher-order learning.

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy: Cognitive Process Dimension
Lower-Order Learning ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ Higher-Order Learning
Remembering Understanding Applying Analyzing Evaluating Creating
Articulate
Define
Duplicate
Identify
Indicate
Label
List
Name
Outline
Recall
Recite
Recognize
Reproduce
State
Tell
Calculate
Categorize
Clarify
Classify
Compare
Conclude
Contrast
Describe
Discuss
Distinguish
Exemplify
Explain
Illustrate
Infer
Interpret
Outline
Paraphrase
Predict
Report
Restate
Summarize
Translate
Carry out
Compute
Conduct
Convert
Demonstrate
Derive
Develop
Diagram
Employ
Estimate
Execute
Generalize
Graph
Implement
Investigate
Manipulate
Model
Modify
Practice
Solve
Use
Utilize
Attribute
Categorize
Compare
Contrast
Deconstruct
Deduce
Detect
Determine
Differentiate
Discriminate
Distinguish
Examine
Infer
Integrate
Interpret
Organize
Parse
Relate
Select
Sequence
Structure
Test
Appraise
Assess
Conclude
Coordinate
Critique
Decide
Defend
Detect
Dispute
Grade
Judge
Justify
Monitor
Prioritize
Rank
Rate
Recommend
Reconstruct
Score
Select
Support
Verify
Build
Change
Combine
Compile
Compose
Construct
Create
Design
Devise
Develop
Formulate
Generate
Hypothesize
Improve
Invent
Plan
Predict
Produce
Reorganize
Synthesize

The Knowledge Dimension

In addition to the modifications in the cognitive process dimension, the 2001 revision of the original Bloom’s taxonomy incorporates not only learning processes but also includes the types of knowledge learned or to which the learning processes are applied, i.e., the “Knowledge Dimension.”

This knowledge dimension encompasses the following different levels of knowledge that students may be expected to acquire or construct, ranging from the concrete to the abstract:

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy: Knowledge Dimension
Concrete ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ Abstract
Factual Knowledge Conceptual Knowledge Procedural Knowledge
Knowledge that is basic to specific disciplines and is used to communicate, understand, and organize a subject; knowledge of facts, terminology, vocabulary, details, symbols, representations, and elements that are essential to understanding a discipline and solving problems in it Knowledge of classifications and categories; knowledge of principles and generalizations; knowledge of theories, models, and structures that are pertinent to a particular disciplinary area Knowledge of how to do something specific to a disciplinary area; knowledge of discipline-specific skills and algorithms; knowledge of discipline-specific techniques, methodologies, and methods of inquiry; knowledge of criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures

It should be noted that the revised Bloom’s taxonomy also identifies a fourth type of knowledge – “Metacognitive Knowledge” – as a special case. Metacognitive knowledge “is knowledge of [one’s own] cognition and about oneself in relation to various subject matters . . . ” (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001). It involves knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition; strategies for learning; knowledge about cognitive tasks, including appropriate contextual and conditional knowledge; and self-knowledge.

Classifying knowledge into discrete categories and hierarchical levels is a bit imprecise in that the boundaries between the different types of knowledge are not sharp and crisp, and there can be overlap between the categories. For example, some procedural knowledge may be conceptual in nature and may be more concrete than conceptual knowledge. Nevertheless, modelling knowledge in this framework has proven to be useful in classifying and developing educational goals and objectives.

The Cognitive Domain

In the revised taxonomy, human intellectual activity – the process of learning and the acquisition of knowledge – is represented by the cognitive process dimension and the knowledge dimension as described above. The “Cognitive Domain” is then modelled as the intersection of these two dimensions of intellectual activity and serves as a framework for learning, teaching, and assessment.

The following table illustrates the cognitive domain in the revised taxonomy of educational objectives and provides general examples of learning objectives that correspond to each of the various combinations of the cognitive process applied to the knowledge dimensions:

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Cognitive Domain
Cognitive Process Dimension Knowledge Dimension
Factual
Knowledge
Conceptual
Knowledge
Procedural
Knowledge
Remembering Define terminology associated with a particular discipline. Identify principles associated with a particular discipline. Articulate the steps in a discipline-specific process.
Understanding Summarize facts associated with a particular discipline. Compare discipline-specific categories or classifications. Explain techniques associated with a particular discipline.
Applying Model discipline-specific factual information. Utilize models associated with a particular discipline to solve problems. Implement discipline-specific processes or methodologies.
Analyzing Categorize basic elements associated with a particular discipline. Make inferences or draw conclusions based on discipline-specific theories. Distinguish between different processes associated with a particular discipline.
Evaluating Assess discipline-specific factual information. Recommend courses of action based on theories and concepts associated with a particular discipline. Justify the use of discipline-specific techniques or methodologies.
Creating Reorganize basic elements associated with a particular discipline into a new pattern. Develop an original discipline-specific model or theory. Design a new technique or method associated with a particular discipline.

Why Use Bloom’s Taxonomy?

The answer to this question is multi-faceted and lies in the fact that Bloom’s framework provided one of the first systematic and easy-to-understand classifications of thinking and learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a clear and robust tool for guiding the development of teaching and learning.

Some of the reasons for employing Bloom’s Taxonomy include:

  • Accurately measuring students’ abilities requires an understanding of the different levels of cognition that are critical for learning.
  • Developing intended student learning outcomes according to Bloom’s Taxonomy helps students understand what is expected of them.
  • Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to develop intended student learning outcomes helps professors to plan and deliver appropriate instruction.
  • Developing intended student learning outcomes using Bloom’s Taxonomy helps faculty to design and implement appropriate assessment tasks, measures, and instruments.
  • Having intended student learning outcomes based on Bloom’s Taxonomy helps to ensure that instruction and assessment are appropriately aligned with the intended outcomes.

The IACBE has developed a handbook containing Bloom’s 1956 original taxonomy of educational objectives in the cognitive domain, the 2001 revision of the taxonomy, sample verbs to use in writing intended student learning outcomes that are appropriate for each cognitive level of learning, and guidelines for writing clear and effective statements of intended student learning outcomes. This handbook is provided below:

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and Writing Intended Learning Outcomes Statements (PDF)

For more information on the IACBE’s requirements pertaining to intended learning outcomes and student learning assessment, see Writing Intended Student Learning Outcomes StatementsKey Content Areas of an Outcomes Assessment Plan, and Student Learning Assessment Measures.

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